Tensions escalated in Abia State as civil servants locked out the Accountant-General of the state, Njum Onyemenam, from her office in a striking display of protest against the prolonged non-payment of their salaries. The workers, frustrated by months of unpaid wages, blocked the entrance to the Accountant-General’s office within the Ministry of Finance, effectively preventing her from gaining access.
Several civil servants expressed their anguish to reporters, revealing that they have endured salary arrears for as long as five months. The protest came on the heels of a recent pledge by Governor Alex Otti to clear all outstanding salaries by the year’s end, indicating the magnitude of the financial distress faced by the workers.
Mike Akpara, the Commissioner for Finance, acknowledged the severity of the situation and conveyed that the government was actively working to resolve the salary arrears crisis. However, he cautioned that the process would require time due to the extensive backlog.
In an unexpected twist, the Accountant-General, Njum Onyemenam, refuted the reported incident as misleading and “absolute falsehood.” Onyemenam clarified that during the alleged incident, she was not present at her office, debunking the claim that she was locked out by angry civil servants. She explained that she had approached the entrance gate to the annex of the Government House area, where her office is located, and observed a small group attempting to access the gate but being denied entry by security personnel.
Onyemenam opted for an alternate route to her office to avoid any potential altercation and stated, “There was nothing like chasing me out of my office.” She further emphasized that she was committed to adhering to the directive of Governor Dr. Alex Otti to ensure salary payments by the 28th of each month.
In accordance with this commitment, the Accountant-General confirmed that all civil servants in Abia State received their salaries for the month of August on Monday, August 28, 2023.
As the situation unfolds, the ongoing standoff between the government and civil servants underscores the pressing need for financial stability and prompt salary disbursement. The incident also highlights the challenges faced by both government officials and the workforce as they navigate through these financial difficulties.